A developer has nixed plans to build an apartment complex on a downtown Frederick site, less than 24 hours after the city’s Historic Preservation Commission gave a mixed ruling on his request for demolition.

Tarek Aly, principal of Suitland Road LLC, the business entity that owns 56 and 58-70 S. Market St., told The Frederick News-Post on Friday that he decided against moving forward with the project. On Thursday, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission reviewed Aly’s application to demolish the freestanding brick facades at 58-70 S. Market St.

The commission approved demolition of one set of facades, at 66-70 S. Market St., but deemed the second set at 58-60 S. Market St. a contributing resource to the Frederick Town Historic District, The News-Post has reported. The commission could have approved demolition of the second facade, but only at a separate public hearing and based on specific requirements of its guidelines.

Several commission members indicated they would not want the facade torn down, instead suggesting that it could be incorporated into the new building.

Based on the commission’s vote and subsequent workshop discussion on new construction at the site, Aly said he no longer wants to proceed. He doesn’t plan on submitting plans for a new project, either.

“I don’t have the time and the energy,” he said. “We’re going to invest somewhere else.”

Commission Chairman Scott Winnette wrote in an email that he could not comment on Aly’s decision because the city still considers the HPC application an open case. Commission members are discouraged from commenting on open cases outside of public hearings.

Mayor Randy McClement also indicated he did not consider the project officially over. When informed about Aly’s decision Friday, he said city staff members would contact Aly to “see what his concerns are.”

Even if the project folds, Richard Griffin, the city’s economic development director, said he was optimistic that someone else would develop the property.

“I’m disappointed, of course, but I am optimistic that there will be others that will see an opportunity there,” he said.

Aly, however, told The News-Post that he wasn’t planning to sell the property. Instead, he would leave the two free-standing facades and roofless building as they are.

“It still has good value,” he said.

Asked why he’d pay property taxes on the abandoned site with no plans to develop or sell it, he responded, “That’s just my decision.”

Aly previously applied for and received commission approval for demolition of the facades, as well as rehabilitation of the roofless building next door and first-level site plans. Those approvals were granted in 2012, and have since expired, forcing him to reapply.

Aly blamed the expiration of the approvals on misunderstanding how long those decisions lasted. He said he thought the approvals didn’t expire for three years, when in fact they expired after two years. When he realized the approvals would be invalid by July, he said, he tried to contact city staff members, but couldn’t schedule a public hearing until now.

Based on plans submitted to the city Planning Commission this spring, Aly planned to transform the site into a two-building, three-story apartment complex with retail space on the ground floors.

If he had moved ahead with the project, he would have needed several additional approvals from the historic preservation and planning commissions before construction could begin.

The property’s condition has remained largely unchanged since the city approved demolition of the dilapidated buildings, apart from the facades, at 58-70 S. Market St. in 2000. At the time, replacement plans were expected but didn’t materialize.

Aly paid $153,000 for the property at a tax sale in 2011, according to online property records. As of July 1, the property was valued at $145,000.

The property was identified as one of 30 on the city’s blighted property list and property watch list created in 2014. As of the Oct. 1 quarterly update, it is still listed as a property to watch, although there are no open code violations, according to the city’s online database.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(24) comments

hrpuffingstuff

Can somebody please tell me why someone would buy any property in the area and not expect for it to be under the watch of the committee? Like it or not its there for a reason, I keep seeing comments that they are too tough or what not but I for one don't want to see development that doesn't comply just because it's cheaper/easier to just do whatever you want.

threecents

I don't know all the details, but to battle against this guy who wants to do good things for the city - over a bad facade, really? At the very least, somebody from the city government needs to go to this guy and apologize! As a Fredericktonian I apologize to him.

recordhigh

I'm not an architect, but seeing that these are just facades, it can't be that hard for the developer to restore them and then proceed to build whatever he wants behind and above them. And the building would have needed some facade and demolition work no matter what, so the cost can't be a major issue either way. The taller facade in particular, if restored to its original design, would look quite nice in my opinion.

And i fail to see how sitting on the property, all the while paying taxes and maintenance on it, would ever be financially better than building something that can generate revenue. Does the owner think that the property can't generate enough revenue to justify what he wants to build? If that's the case, then complaining about the historic designation is just a cover for bigger financial problems.

I guess it's too much to ask for a. developer to care about the community, but it's obviously not in the interest of the community for this property to sit vacant for another decade or more either. If he doesn't have the wherewithal to do something with the property, he should sell it.

threecents

Yes, but the developer should have some say as to what his building will look like.

MAVRICKinc7

Why would the developer want to compromise his corporate TAX DEDUCTION he gets from Frederick and the Fed he gets from one year to the next. After all, hasn't Frederick, Maryland and elected governance been playing this same game for decades. What is it about the vacant properties that line downtown Frederick, considered eye sores and a major part of BLIGHT and vacant properties throughout Frederick and Frederick County Maryland? Hasn't Frederick been sitting on their slum properties for the last 50 years, for the sake of tax revenue that allowed Bechtel Industries to flee the neighborhood, to Virginia, without a whimper or regret?

After all your ASSUMPTIONS could any one of US consider you a prospecitive BUYER of the property and do something more with it than has been accomplished over the last 50 years, to todays date? Who wants to SPECULATE on a property that falling around it ears and has been for decades, under the terms and conditions of a Historic Preservation Commission that has been holding the Frederick community hostage, for want of more taxable dollars?

If we were to connect the dots couldn't we link this taxing strategy to our wealthy neighbors who insist on doing NOTHING, while our taxes get raised from one year to the next? The picture is much larger than you will ever admit to, while focusing your attention AWAY from reality and the nature of "do nothing elected officials" who spend more time and money on removing the Taney statute than they enforce the consequences of decades old slum, vacant and blighted properties that the Historic Preservation Commission can't even attend to, much less, do anything about, because of ancient preservation wording that's more about watching the City crumble around itself than preserving the FUTURE of Frederick and Frederick County, Maryland.

When you play the "CARE CARD", aren't you being more emotional than following best business practice protocols, which those, with disposable income, are fronting, much like elected governance, FAMILY connections and development strategies are doing now. Buying cheap, and then trying to squeeze development strategies for all they are worth to pick up what Frederick has sown for the past 50 years and USING tax payer dollars to finance yet more tax strategies, much like the one being peddled under Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) for something (Convention Center) that is as much the same LIE we've been telling ourselves for decades and generations and using public DIME making its way to a QUARTER in the next 5 to 10 years from now.

Who are these people who get to vote their conscience from the confines of a Historic Preservation Commission, while following rules and regulations buried in the elite's back yards that can't see the trees for the forest, garden their connections with wealth and leave the Frederick City cititizen to fend for themselves. Doesn't the FNP already have a list of players who mine Historical Preservation, from afar and locally connected to money, the public can't even imagine other than the outrageous taxes that Frederick collects within the boundaries of Frederick, Maryland. Aren't we working our way to diminished returns on housing and commercial investments, that prop up the monied, who could care less about what the public needs except to line their own pockets with tax payer dollars, that are already above and beyond REASONALBE thinking or investment in a Commision that has lost sight of the future in exchange for EXTORTION rhetoric that only LIMITS and COMPROMISES investment in Frederick, Maryland. other than those who have lots of disposable income, and USED for nothing more than bragging rights.and market share of INFLUENCE in the City and elected officials that have long buttered their bread with tax strategies now being used and proffered under the guise of Taxing Incremental Finanacing. Don't get me wrong. This is not unique to Frederick, Frederick County or the Maryland REGION. It's merely a gimmick that many small towns use to compete for a larger piece of the pie, much along the same lines prior local administrations have adopted, while EXCLUDING the public from being INFORMED, and regarded as nothing more than a herd of cattle, interested only in 3 hots and a cot to get from one day to the next.

DickD

So, Aly cannot demolish and build what he wants to build. Just what was it he was going to build and why would it not fit in with the Historic District. Certainly the building looks like it needs to be demolished, it is an eye sore. Why does the Historic Commission seek to keep it? Why did Aly buy it and what was he willing to spend to demolish and build. So many questions and so few answers in this article. It is possible to argue this almost anyway you want and looking at some of the responses, due to the lack of information, it appears to be the case.

petersamuel

Ah, we see the Blight Promotion Commission at work again. When they aren’t fussing over the paving stones in someone’s garden, the need to renew a stoop in concrete rather than brick because it was originally done in concrete, banning pressure treated wood, or insisting on an olde metal roof rather than shingles in an area full of shingled houses, they are protecting a decades old rotting facade as a “contributing resource.” With this kind of idiocy rife at the Commission, of course no one will try to get a permit to build a hotel downtown without many millions of dollars of government backing. We citizens and local businesses pay heavily for the City government’s indulgence of a small bunch of bossy historic fanatics.

Fredmd21704

when something sits empty for decades, it would be in the best interest of all parties, if the city would work with the developers, not fight with them. Now we will have to keep looking at these facades like this for more decades.

bzkaufman

Demolition was approved once, but denied now? Does denying the property owner now advance any one's interests? I think not. And what exactly does Mayor McClement think the concerns are? Obviously,he seeks consistency in the process and the ability to proceed without a bunch of extra red tape and expense. The HPC stands in the way of too many improvements to our downtown area. Greenville SC has created a wonderful downtown area by mixing modern with historical. It's time for Frederick to use more common sense and stop standing in the way of improving the downtown area.

Dwasserba

I sympathize with the rigamarole though this sounds a little bit like sour grapes. The HPC will be "blamed." The problem is, if you're from out of town looking to invest, you may not understand the significance of what you buy. That actually would be a dominating location once developed, quite central, with the potential to be a landmark tourist draw. Once any sign of what it was is gone, it's gone. It doesn't contribute now, but as the rest of the street continues to improve, how this large site is handled becomes more critical. This is too bad, but if its owner csn't be bothered, then he's made the right decision. We can't miss what we don't have, and the responsibility for the facades is his. If he doesn't care, he should sell to someone who does. The potential of the location deserves that. If he chooses to sulk, we are no worse off.

golden-rule

Doesn't have the time or money to deal with it? What did he think was going to happen. They've propped up the facades for a reason, Aly cant claim this was a surprise that there'd be opposition to tearing them down. He says the property still has value to him. I presume that would be the satisfaction of letting the property fester and aggravate the city and residents who did not let him have his way. The historic character of city adds value to residences built here. That is what attracts investors like Aly. He wants to benefit from historic preservation efforts of others but is unwilling to make them himself. nice.

bzkaufman

Can't claim it's a surprise?? Did you READ the article? He 'd been granted approval for demo earlier on both facades. I'd be surprised if I were him. As I look at the picture of the building I don't see anything of much historical value there. Of course he's angry. Let's just stop getting in the way of improving our city.

stjohn42

It seemed to me that he had gotten a demo permit from the City, but not the historical people. The lesson to me is, "When you get your permits, get to work." I have no idea why he waited two years. Although it is also not clear why these buildings need to be saved either.

chesapeakecountry

Are these buildings up to code? If not he needs to be made to bring them up to current safety levels.

public-redux

I'm not sure that facades count as "buildings".

Dwasserba

It's probably as safe as any movie set anywhere.

Fredmd21704

It might help if you would know what they were before making assumptions.

huskycats

It's time to do away with this commission. They have caused more problems for Frederick over the years. Let's let Frederick city residents vote on who serves in this post. Appointing people who do not have to share their ideas for the city is just plain wrong. Something this important should be put up to a vote of the people concerned, not on the whim of the mayor or anyone else.

cctjr64

WELL THERE YOU HAVE IT. THE HYSTERICAL COMMISSION SCREWED THE POOCH ON THIS. GOOD LUCK IN FINDING ANOTHER SUCKER TO BUY THE PROPERTY. NOW THE PROPERTY WILL SIT EMPTY FOR THE NEXT 60 YEARS, JUST LIKE IT HAS

Based on the commission's vote and subsequent workshop discussion on new construction at the site, Aly said he no longer wants to move forward with the project. He doesn't plan on submitting plans for a new project, either.

"I don't have the time and the energy," he said. "We're going to invest somewhere else."

Dwasserba

We read it. Right now the wrong owner owns it, I guess. That's happened there to date. What's different, really. He's probably upset he didn't fully understand what he got into. Understandable. This required give and take and I guess he's done all of that he cares to. If he doesn't consider this project worth it, the long view is, let him go. Time is on our side.

Josephbattles

Our HPC stunts the growth of our city when they don't allow people willing to fix up properties (many in the proper way) to do so.

I know that local businesses have gone elsewhere or not opened second establishments because the HPC was so intense they just couldn't do it.

That's a loss of jobs, taxes, and positive development. There has to be a balance between preservation (which is very, very important) and progress.

Now that site will continue to sit there, rotting, when it could have been housing and new small businesses. It's a shame.

Dwasserba

Define "proper."
If this "rots", as you say, he owns it, he's responsible for consequences same as any owner is. Otherwise I don't know what to say to people who don't get it. How slick was he thinking this would be if he can't invest more energy in thinking it out? Slapdash would never fly there. Please visit some towns without standards and take a look around, what do you see, tourists or tumbleweeds? Vitality or inertia? The HPC are volunteers. Don't "dis" volunteers unless you intend to offer yourself to replace them.

Hammer

What is the fee for wasting the City's time? And what's the sanction for letting it sit idle?

public-redux

Why should a property owner be sanctioned by government for not developing the property?

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